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A big part of the cigar business today is that of "bundles." Those newer to the joys of cigars probably don't realize that bundles were, until fairly recently, non-existent. Premium cigars have always been known for their distinctive packaging, including cedar or paper decorated boxes. But today, bundles are a major part of the premium cigar business.
Bundles originally appeared in the early 1960s as "value cigars." Most bundles were actually manufacturer's seconds, in that there were small blemishes on what were otherwise good quality wrappers. Visit our article on cigar seconds to learn more about them. Originally, cigars within a given bundle often did not match each other in color or in taste. Some were machine-made, some hand-made, and the quality was often inconsistent.
The main benefit to bundles was the cost savings in labor and raw materials. Before cigars are boxed, they are sorted by color. Due to slight variations in wrapper colors, after they are rolled, they're individually handled and grouped according to color. This is why, if you look at the cigars within a given box, they should look identical, but if you open 2 different boxes, the wrapper colors may vary slightly from one box to the next. In the beginning, bundles were, by convention, not sorted by color. Therefore, costs could be cut by eliminating the need to hand sort each cigar. Plus, by avoiding the use of a costly cedar box, more savings was passed along.
But these days, it's a different story. Today, the word "bundle" is not synonymous with second quality. Bundles have become so popular that manufacturers now plan specifically for that trade. Manufacturers are not just packing seconds in bundles anymore, but are making cigars specifically for the bundle market. In fact, most bundles today have the same consistency as boxed cigars. You're as likely to find a premium cigar packaged in a bundle as a second. As beautiful as most cigar-related packaging usually is, bundles are a wonderful development for those looking to maximize value. After all, you don't smoke the box!